Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Religion: Bible Classes in Georgia Schools?

Georgia lawmakers OK public school Bible classes

By Karen Jacobs

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia lawmakers have approved a measure to fund elective Bible courses in public schools, raising concern among civil liberties groups the classes could violate the U.S. constitutional separation of church and state.

Under the bill, which now goes to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature, the State Board of Education would have to adopt curricula for two classes on the history and literature of the Old and New Testaments. School districts would then have the option of offering the courses.

The measure's enactment threatens to again inflame the debate between secularists and the religious right that has been invigorated under President George W. Bush.

The elective courses, according to the bill, are to "be taught in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students," and should "not disparage or encourage a commitment to a set of religious beliefs."
You know, usually I get a little bit freaked by these stories, but I'm not sure if this one is such a big deal. So here's my quick commentary.

I'm not sure there's any such thing as objectivity to be found about this stuff, and if there were, nobody would recognize it as such. If you have an opinion about it or care at all, I don't think you can be "objective." You might be able to teach "non-confessionally," however.

If I were teaching this course, I'd freak people out. I don't believe that people named Adam and Eve existed, or that there was a worldwide flood, or that snakes talk very much. Genesis 1-11 is mythology. I also happen to think that Jesus did some ornery supernatural shit. I'm not bound to any kind of modernist orthodoxy that insists I can't say that. However, that's my reading of the text. I also know how to speak "historian." I can talk about the literature itself, and interpretation history, and historical criticism, and all that good stuff. For me, that's a good faith building exercise, anyway. Other people, and I suspect that would be most of the kids who would want to take that class in Georgia (to say nothing of their parents) would think I was trying to destroy their faith.

My point? I'm studying pastoral theology, and I hope to be ordained a priest. I think I could teach about the bible from an academic and non-confessional standpoint. Lots of people would think I'm trying to destroy Christianity were I to do so. Essentially, I think I would teach this way in a church as well, and then integrate the Church's confessional understanding of the Bible as somehow being "The Word of God."


1 comment:

Garrett said...

I've heard a handfull of commentators say that classes like this would likely implode on themselves very quickly, as high school teachers are simply not qualified to teach religion in a, using your excellent term, non-confessional basis.

As many schools do add humanities curricula to augment math, science, language arts, and social studies, I could see a time in the future where high school teachers could learn methods of teaching religion from a social science/historical perspective.

Good English teachers don't try to teach Math, so I don't understand why teachers who aren't qualified to teach religion would feel compelled to do so.

Although I'm sure Zondervan would be happy to publish nice teacher's editions with signficant crib sheets for the "anointed and unqualified."